Why the formation of the International Rugby Players' Council is so important for the game

Opinion: Players must have say in how rugby is run

Player welfare must always be at the top of rugby’s agenda and that means players must have a say in the sport’s decision-making process. So the news that International Rugby Players have formed a Players’ Council should be warmly welcomed.

The council, which features men’s and women’s players from 15s and sevens, got together in Monaco last week to discuss the game’s big issues.

As International Rugby Players president and World Rugby Player of the Year Johnny Sexton said: “Players need to have their voice heard. There are massive issues that need addressing and governing bodies and unions must make decisions with the input of the men and women on the pitch.”

South Africa back-row Warren Whiteley added: “We feel we can contribute and ultimately make the game better.”

Players past and present were involved, with the likes of Rachael Burford, Sarah Goss, Guilhem Guirado, Jamie Roberts, Chris Vui, Akapusi Qera, Georgi Nemsadze, Bryan Habana and Brian O’Driscoll also in attendance.

They also met with World Rugby in Monaco as part of the Rugby Athletes’ Commission (RAC) to discuss player load, injury prevention and laws.

Former Scotland back-row John Jeffrey, who chairs the RAC, said: “Without players we have no game and this body is playing a significant role in advising and informing the Rugby Committee on matters relating to the playing of the game.”

Setting up a council is something International Rugby Players have been working on for a while and having a meeting that coincided with the World Rugby Awards in Monaco helped logistically.

World Cup-winning All Black Conrad Smith, who is also working with International Rugby Players on introducing agent regulations, said: “The Players’ Council is legends of the game seeing what can be done better and having a stronger voice.

“With players spread across the world, it’s tough to meet often, but we want a group of players to convene and decide what to push for, to find out what players in Georgia and New Zealand want.”

Rugby World magazine have long supported giving players a voice in the game and this year we have teamed up with International Rugby Players to report on the results of several surveys they have conducted with their members.

Earlier this year we reported on the biggest concerns for men’s sevens players and women’s players, and this month we reveal the findings of the men’s 15s survey in the January 2019 edition of the magazine.


More than 350 Test players from around the world have taken part in the anonymous survey and the results are thought-provoking. Pick up a copy of the new issue – on sale 4 December – to find out more.

The sport’s governing bodies must pay attention to these results and ensure changes are made to improve player welfare. Players’ voices must be heard.

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